Olga Reifschneider Papers

Identifier: NC528

Scope and Contents

The Olga Reifschneider Papers covers the years 1862-1978 and were collected by Reifschneider primarily in her second career as botanist and historian of botany, and date from 1862-1978. The greatest quantity dates from after 1945, when she began a formal study of botany at the University of Nevada, Reno, and includes research notes, correspondence, drafts for books and articles, newspaper clippings, and printed material. There is also a smaller amount of material from 1862-1945, collected by Reifschneider related to her study of the history of Nevada botany, which is primarily in the form of typescripts and photocopies (based on handwritten originals located elsewhere), plus a few original historical documents.

This historical and biographical information resulted in a published monograph: Biographies of Nevada Botanists, published by the University of Nevada Press in 1965. There is also incomplete material for proposed works on Charles Lewis Anderson, 1827-1910, and Vernon Orlando Bailey, 1864-1942. Some of the unpublished research ended up in articles and lectures. The Anderson materials include typescripts of Anderson's correspondence, primarily with his wife from 1862-1867.

Wherever possible Reifschneider's own grouping of individual items has been followed. For example, packets of letters which she had stapled together because they bear on a single subject have been left clipped together, even when that arrangement produces a minor irregularity in chronology.


  • 1862-1978


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research. Materials must be used on-site; advance notice suggested. Access to parts of this collection may be restricted under provisions of state or federal law.

Conditions Governing Use

The Charles Lewis Anderson folders can be viewed, but cannot be duplicated without written permission from the Bancroft Library.

Biographical Note

Olga Reifschneider was born Olga Augusta Wuertz on a farm in Illinois in 1900. She grew up and attended school in St. Louis, Missouri, reaching the eleventh grade. She then married John C. (Jack) Reifschneider, and in 1920 the two moved to Ukiah, California. Nine years later they settled in Reno and opened an auto body shop, which prospered.

Reifschneider took occasional college classes, but did not enroll full-time at UNR until 1944, the year her daughter Nita (Reifschneider) Spangler graduated with a journalism degree. The elder Reifschneider gained a bachelor's degree in botany in 1949, and attended the Yosemite Field School for Ranger Naturalists that same year.

Although occupied as financial manager for her husband's business until his retirement in 1968, Reifschneider maintained a second career as botanist and nature writer until her death in early 1978. Through contact with James R. Henrichs, Agnes (Scott Hume Train) Janssen, and W. Andrew Archer, who worked on the Nevada Indian Medicine Project in the 1930's and 1940's, she developed a lifelong interest in native medicinal plants. Studies under prominent Nevada botanists such as William Dwight Billings, Philip A. Lehenbauer, and Ira La Rivers sparked her interest in the historical and biographical aspects of botany, and eventually resulted in her book, Biographies of Nevada Botanists, published by the University of Nevada Press in 1965. (An informal autobiographical sketch dealing with the development of Reifschneider's intellectual interests is available in two versions in the Special Collections Manuscript Control File).

Reifschneider lectured and wrote articles on wildflowers, desert biology, and the environment, as well as Nevada history, petroglyphs, and Benjamin Franklin. In the field she was an avid plant collector and photographer. One small mimulus she collected near Pyramid Lake in 1956 was identified as a new species, and given the name "Reifschneiderae".

Reifschneider died in San Mateo, California on January 1, 1978.


4 Linear Feet (4 boxes, 2 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Olga Augusta (Wuertz) Reifschneider (1900-1978) was a Reno, Nevada botanist and author. The collection includes notes, printed materials, and correspondence about botany and other life sciences, medicinal plants, western botanists, Nevada history, the environment, and professional women.


Arranged into the following series: 1) Addresses, Essays; 2) Biographical Research; 3) Biographies of Nevada Botanists; 4) Botany; 5) Environment; 6) Personal; 7) Maps and Oversize; 8) Photographic Materials

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Papers donated by Nita Reifschneider Spangler in 1978.

Related Materials

NC252: Charles L. Anderson Papers

Separated Materials

Photographs have been separated and placed in the Special Collections Photo Archive as collection number UNRS-P1988-05.


Reischneider, Olga. Biographies of Nevada botanists, 1844-1963. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1964.



Guide to the Olga A. Reifschneider Papers
Jack Shipley
January 1988
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Nevada, Reno. Special Collections Department Repository

Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center
1664 N. Virginia St.
Reno Nevada 89557-0322 USA
775-682-5724 (Fax)